Saturday, April 16, 2011

Who Was Sacagawea?

Credit: Google images

We have some illness in the family, and will hang here a couple days to make sure everything is okay before we jump off.  Perhaps you'll find this interesting.  I know I’ve done an earlier story on the Lewis and Clark Expedition, and if I follow my interest in the Missouri River and their three-year exploit, I will probably do others. One of the things that jumped out at me was the story of Sacagawea and how she became part of history. Perhaps another thing that draws me to her is my shame in not knowing who she was when the Sacagawea dollar coin was minted. This may give you a taste of how a hapless teenager would play an important part in our nation’s history.

In the story of the Lewis and Clark expedition, Sacagawea was a valuable and pivotal personality. She and another girl were Shoshone Indian children captured and taken as slaves by a Hidatsa raiding party near Three Forks, Montana, at the headwaters of the Missouri. She was twelve years old at the time. Both girls became the “wives” of Toussaint Charbonneau, a forty-five year old French Canadian trapper, who won them in a bet with the warriors that had captured them. By the time they met Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, Sacagawea was sixteen and pregnant. Lewis hired her and Charbonneau as interpreters to communicate with the tribes they encountered. Lewis actually intended to hire Sacagawea as interpreter, but since Charbonneau “owned” her, he had to take the manipulative and demanding Frenchman in the bargain. Charbonneau had lived with the Hidatsas so also knew a bit of native dialect. To unravel their communications, when speaking with the Sioux, for example, Sacagawea would translate in Hidatsa to Charbonneau. Charbonneau would translate into French for two French-speaking members of the expedition, Drouillard and Jessaume. They would translate into English for Lewis and/or Clark. If that wasn’t complicated enough, Drouillard and Jessaume would prolong the process by getting into frequent arguments over how certain French words should be translated. Responses would travel the same torturous route.

During their first winter camped over in the Mandan villages (near present Washburn, North Dakota), the expedition built Fort Mandan. As Sacagawea prepared to deliver her baby, Lewis had a separate hut built for her, Charbonneau, and the infant son, Jean Baptiste.

No comments:

Post a Comment